Every summer, the local media publish their annual stories on the best ice cream, beaches, and fried clams in New England. Pilgrimages are made to Ipswich and Essex, and the merits of their clam shacks hotly debated.
While I eat and enjoy clams, you’ll notice my artery-threatening seafood of choice is shrimp. And the best fried shrimp on the North Shore is found at Dube’s Seafood in Salem, hands down.
The Pelletier family has run Dube’s (pronounced Doobies) since 1961, when they bought what at one time was a take-out stand from the original Dube. The interior décor likely hasn’t changed much in the past half-century. We’re talking old school here; red vinyl banquettes, laminate tables, wood-paneled walls, and a long low bar. It’s tiny and dive-y but quite comfortable, and the staff is terrifically friendly.
Clichéd as it sounds, for me, Dube’s isn’t just a restaurant; it’s a family tradition. My dad inevitably sees someone he knows there. Whenever one of my siblings comes back to the area to visit, a dinner there is imperative. Whenever a new seafood place opens, Dube’s is the standard to which they are compared.
When we stopped in for dinner last weekend, I realized that I’ve been eating there for something like 30 years. And I have to admit, I always order the same thing—the fried shrimp. Dube’s menu offers weekly specials in addition to a wide variety of baked, grilled, and fried fish, but somehow when the waitress appears with her pen poised, it’s gotta be the shrimp.
We ordered cocktails, which are incredibly well priced. They run the gamut from old standards like my dirty martini ($5.25) to newer, seasonal creations like the pumpkin martini on offer that night ($6).
The obligatory starter is always the famed onion rings ($6 for small, $8 for large), which are medium cut and not too heavily breaded. Then the hot, succulent, golden entree plate arrives stacked high. I counted 17 shrimp piled on the mound of fries ($14.95). The coating is light and crisp, and the seafood moist and incredibly fresh tasting.
Not having grown up with a fried shrimp obsession, my partner in crime debates his choice of entrée each visit. This time, he decided on a fish stew special. It was an impressive bowl, full of shrimp, scallops, haddock, and clams in a rich, satisfying broth, served with rice and fresh-cut veggies on the side ($10.95).
Far enough from the center of town in a mostly residential neighborhood, our waitress tells us that Dube’s doesn’t get the huge influx of tourists around Halloween that most of Salem does. “Unless they ask a local where to go for seafood, then they come here.” And that about sums it up. Locals in the know will tell you Dube’s is the place to go for the best fried seafood around.
317 Jefferson Ave, Salem